LINCOLN - It will be at least October before the first patron can legally light up in a Nebraska cigar bar.
Hobert Rupe, executive director of the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission, said Thursday the wait will depend on how quickly a set of rules and regulations moves through the approval process.
He commented after a commission hearing on draft rules and regulations. The commission is expected to vote at its September meeting on adopting - and possibly amending - those rules.
A new state law takes effect Aug. 30 exempting specially licensed cigar bars from the statewide public smoking ban.
The exemption is in addition to those for tobacco shops, some hotel rooms, laboratories used for research on smoking and home-based businesses.
Charles Kline of Omaha said cigar bar owners recognize the opportunity the Legislature has provided and will put their best foot forward. Kline owns the S.G. Roi smoke shop and hopes to open a cigar bar.
But Mark Welsch, president of the Group to Alleviate Smoking Pollution, urged the commission to close potential loopholes in the draft rules.
Among his suggestions was a rule banning people from bringing food into cigar bars or smoking thin cigars, which are similar in size to cigarettes. Under the new law, cigar bars cannot sell food or allow cigarette smoking.
They also must get at least 10 percent of their gross revenue from selling tobacco products other than cigarettes and cannot boost tobacco revenue by offering drink specials with tobacco purchases.
The bars must have walk-in humidors - special rooms with temperature and humidity controls for storing and displaying cigars. The draft rules would require the humidors to be large enough for two adults.
Welsch said the rules should require cigar bars to keep their smoke from infiltrating other businesses.
The cigar bar law also faces a pending legal challenge. Big John's Billiards, an Omaha pool hall, has argued in Lancaster County District Court that exemptions to the smoking ban are arbitrary and amount to special legislation in violation of the Nebraska Constitution.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Source: Omaha World-Herald